The classic board game comes to life. Six people at Boddy Manor have motive to kill Mr. Boddy. One of them did. Can you figure out who done it before the show ends? It’s Clue: The Musical by Peter DePietro with music by Galen Blum, Wayne Barker, and Vinnie Martucci and lyrics by Tom Chido. It is currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre.
Theatre doesn’t always have to be high art and Tony Award winners. Sometimes a hokey, fun filled good time makes for the best night of theatre and this show is a shining example of that type of show. DePietro’s script is very intriguing in that the show is actually a game. Just as in the board game, a killer, weapon, and room are drawn at the top of the show and placed into a confidential envelope. During the show, Mr. Boddy provides clues to help the audience deduce who done it, with what, and where. And it does take a bit of careful listening and observational ability to figure it out. This tactic helps to make for a pretty engaging production and ensures a different denouement almost every time.
With that being said, the focus on the game results in the loss of plot. There really isn’t much of a story. Rather there are little vignettes showing a bit about these characters and their connection to Mr. Boddy, an interrogation, the denouement, and then a real ending which feels unnecessarily tacked on. On the other hand, I appreciate the use of meta as the characters are aware they are part of a board game and have done this on many occasions. I also liked the rather catchy, occasionally hilarious, musical numbers.
Daena Schweiger’s direction makes full use of the play’s strengths and masks its weaknesses. She understands the play’s farcical nature resulting in some really great caricatures from her actors. The play is also well staged with the characters constantly moving about, making full use of the space. I was especially impressed with a search scene immediately before Boddy’s murder with the actors running hither, thither, and non and was the show’s best moment.
It’s hard to analyze the performances of the actors as they can only be caricatures and the story does not allow them to develop in depth characters. But there were several performances that did stand out.
Jesse Black plays Mr. Boddy, our host and murder victim. I thought he came off a little too nice in Act I due to his underplaying of the role. Boddy is a rather unlikable chap and Black had the room to go big and ram home that unlikability. However, he has wonderful facial expressions which he used to the fullest in Act II as he is almost like an ever present spirit manipulating events and I rather enjoyed watching his reactions to the events swirling about. He’s also got a very pleasant tenor voice best utilized in his keynote number “The Game”.
Patrick Wolfe delightfully chews the scenery as Colonel Mustard, an army man limited to administrative duty due to a condition where he sees living people as inanimate objects. Wolfe has fantastic bluster and bombast as his off kilter Mustard always wants to play war games, even as foreplay. Wolfe also has a great lower tenor voice as he joyfully declares “Do Unto Your Enemies” and searches for a good weapon in “Everyday Devices”. Wolfe also has tremendous projection power, easily overcoming the black boxy acoustics of the theatre.
Sarah Ebke clearly is having fun as Mrs. Peacock, the wife of Mr. Boddy. She is the one true villain of the piece as she is an unconvicted murderer which she gleefully admits to in “Once a Widow” as her alto tells us the story of the deaths of her five previous husbands. Ms Ebke’s Peacock is a scheming, vile piece of work and one of the best characters of the night.
Carrie Beth Stickrod got the night’s biggest laughs with her rendition of Mrs. White, the put upon housekeeper of Mr. Boddy. Ms Stickrod is beautifully acerbic as the housekeeper desperately searching for a way to escape the crushing debt she owes her employer. I also loved her uneducated nature as her constant misspellings made for the best running gag of the show. She’s also got a powerful soprano which kept the audience in stitches when she lamented “Life is a Bowl of Pits”.
Lindsey Tierney-Jack is all woman and then some in her portrayal of Miss Scarlet. Ms Tierney-Jack brings a great sultriness to the role. This is a woman fully aware of her sensuality and knows how to use it to get what she wants. Ms Tierney-Jack also really emphasizes Scarlet’s performing heart as she breaks into random dance numbers during the chase scene in Act I.
Chris Ebke and his orchestra (Kim Hansen, Kyle Moeller, and Christina Allred) do justice to the musical score as Boddy Manor’s house band. Gary Bosanek’s costume coordination was spot on with the bright, vibrant colors matching the character’s names. Joshua Mullady’s lights enhanced each moment. And Chris Ebke’s set is an awesome reproduction of the board game.
The energy of the cast seemed at a low ebb in tonight’s performance, resulting in a slow pace and loose cue pickups. With the exception of Mr. Wolfe, the cast also needed to put the same projection of their singing into their dialogue.
Clue: The Musical is definitely worth a watch, especially with the added thrill of getting to play the game during the show. You’ll get some catchy music, some scene chewing hilarity, and a fun spectacle.
Clue: The Musical runs at the Bellevue Little Theatre through April 9. Performances are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sun at 2pm. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $10 for students with proper identification. Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.